Abidjan residents struggle to buy provisions as fighting rages on
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As the battle for Abidjan continues between forces loyal to rival presidential contenders Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, terrified residents take advantage of short morning lulls in the fighting to venture outside in search of food and water.
Shops on the Giscard d'Estaing boulevard (in the district of Marcory) were stormed by looters on April 1. Photo: F.M.
As the battle for Abidjan continues between forces loyal to rival presidential contenders Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, terrified residents take advantage of the short morning lulls in the fighting to venture outside in search of food and water. Abidjan residents have only a few short hours to do their shopping as a curfew has been imposed from midday to 6 am.
Weary of failed diplomatic efforts to resolve a tense political crisis triggered by November 28’s disputed presidential election, which both Ouattara and Gbagbo claim to have won, Ouattara’s forces launched a lightning offensive from the north on Monday March 28, seizing much of the country and entering Abidjan late last week.
There, they came up against fierce resistance after initially predicting the final showdown with Gbagbo would end within hours.
Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s former capital and main economic and power hub, is a key stake in the battle for control of the country. It is the site of a last stand by Gbagbo’s forces, which are entrenched around the presidential palace at the heart of the city.
In the afternoon of Monday April 4, Ouattara’s forces began a new offensive against Gbagbo’s troops, backed by French and UN helicopters that fired at the presidential palace, the presidential residence and two military barracks held by Gbagbo, targeting heavy weapons being used against civilian populations. As of noon Tuesday, however, a spokesperson for Gbagbo reiterated that the outgoing president had not reached the point of surrender.
"People who don’t want to wait in line outside the bakery can buy bread for 40 centimes, which is double the usual price"
Aldo lives in Treichville, several hundred metres from the base of Laurent Gbagbo’s Republican Guards.
When I went out this morning [Monday April 4] to go and get water, I heard gunshots nearby. I don’t know if I was being targeted, or if they were just shooting in the air, but it was clear that they wanted to dissuade me from being in the street. I saw that all the shops in the neighbourhood had been ransacked. In the end a neighbour who owns a water pump suggested I go and stock up at his house. I only have one bottle of gas left, which means I can still boil water. All in all, I have enough to live for three days maximum.
Only two bakeries were open this morning [Monday April 4]. Outside, there were people queuing for up to three hours. People who don’t want to wait in line can buy bread for €0.40 [300 CFA francs], which is double the price inside the bakery. Illegal sellers are also benefitting from the situation: a packet of cigarettes has gone up from €1,20 [800 CFA francs] to €3.20 [2100 CFA francs]; a carton of 25 eggs costs €10.50 [7000 CFA francs] instead of €3.80 [2500 CFA francs]."
"I was even able to go and have a beer this morning"
“OlivierCIV” is a doctor. He lives in Cocody, between the Hôtel du Golf and the US embassy.
A supermarket opened its doors this morning (Monday April 4). It was cleaned out within two hours. There is no more mineral water left anywhere in this neighbourhood. People who don’t have running water in their homes have to walk several kilometres to collect water from a spring. I still have some tablets left to purify the tap water. And I’m handing out rice, onions and a little salt to my neighbours if they need them.
The geographical location of my neighbourhood, between the Hôtel du Golf and the US embassy, seems to make things a little easier for us, compared to other areas like Yopougon or Deux Plateaux. I was even able to go and have a beer this morning (Monday April 4). This gives us the chance to think about other things. But at midday, when the curfew started, we went home and barricaded ourselves indoors.”
"I had to dry my meat in the sun so that it wouldn’t go bad and we could still eat it in several days time"
Axelle lives in the Wassakara neighbourhood of Abidjan, which is mainly home to Ouattara supporters, but which is situated at the heart of Yopougon, a district that is a stronghold of Laurent Gbagbo.
The residents of the neighbourhoods Croix Rouge, Siporex and Niangon shop for provisions at the Wassakara market – the only market in Yopougon that is still open for business. It was packed this morning [Monday April 4]. Several shops were also open, but only selling half the usual stock in an attempt to deter looters. Looters are terrorising everybody. This morning [Monday 4th April], a shopkeeper refused to sell some bags of rice to a woman for the simple reason that she came from Siporex, a neighbourhood where there are lots of looters.
Prices have soared in the market. I paid €0.60 [400 CFA francs] for four tomatoes instead of €0.15 [100 CFA francs]. Fresh produce, like fish and meat, is rare. I cooked the rest of the meat I had left and then I had to dry it in the sun. That way it won’t go off and we will still be able to eat it in a couple of days.
In spite of the curfew, there are starving and thirsty people hanging around in the streets until 2 or 3 o’clock, hoping to find something to eat or drink. I myself passed a roadblock held by Gbagbo’s militamen to get to the shop where I work, located on rue Princesse, so that I could charge the battery of my mobile telephone [there is no longer any electricity in Wassakara-Youpougon]. There, I passed some men who were drinking and dancing in support of Laurent Gbagbo."
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.